On 23 March E & J Gallo Winery, America’s largest winery and the second largest wine company in the world, announced what was for some, shocking news. The company had paid an undisclosed sum for the Stagecoach vineyard, the single largest contiguous planting of grapes in Napa Valley, and one of its most famous.
The shock value of this announcement reflected the fact that Gallo, so often thought of more as a Sonoma-based brand, would be acquiring such a large swathe of Napa’s most cherished vineyards. But it was also because the Stagecoach vineyard supplies grapes for more than 100 wine labels, some of whose owners now face the prospect of needing a new source of grapes for their entire production. Indeed, in addition to the very profound implications for those who have based their entire fledgling wine projects on Stagecoach fruit, this purchase promises to have a fundamental impact on premium wine prices in Napa for a long time to come.
Astute observers of the California industry may note, however, that this purchase may not be a totally unexpected move by Gallo. In fact, the acquisition of Stagecoach’s slightly more than 600 acres (243 ha), might be seen as the climax of a very deliberate move to become a dominant force in Napa for the second time in history.
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